Made in Fort Payne: Heil Garbage Trucks
By: Latricia Thomas
You've heard that one man's trash is another man's treasure, but for one company in Fort Payne, trash is a way of life. Heil Environmental builds sanitation trucks in their Fort Payne facility, and you can find their mark all over the world.
Inside Heil's huge facility, more than 500 employees create and assemble more garbage trucks than any other place in the world with too many options to count. “If you put all the combinations together,” says John Kalson, Heil’s Operations Manager, “all the trucks and chassis, there's probably over 100's of thousands.”
On these long assembly lines, crews take thousands of pounds of steel, and start to build the shell of a sanitation truck. “They'll bring all those parts together and begin to build it upside down,” Kalson explains. Then it's time to flip and take a trip further down the line, where the hoses and electrical harnesses are added. "We'll run everything,” Kalson says. “Check the packer, run the arms back and forth, make sure all the switches are in the right location to make sure everything works."
Once the nuts and bolts are in place, it's time for paint and detailing, where the truck you see on your street starts to come into view. Kalson describes what makes one truck unique. "This is a residential side loader unit,” he says. “It’s most likely going into residential area because the side arm will reach down and pick up the portable cans you put into the street."
These trucks travel all over the world, some with innovate designs like engines that run on compressed natural gas or CNG. But since the 1970's, through the spikes and dumps of the economy, they've learned one thing in Fort Payne. "I don't say we are shielded from the economy,” Kalson says. “But we are like death and taxes. The garbage always comes."
For more information on Heil Environmental, click here to visit their website.
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